Jan. 26, 2006

The Muse and I Are Alone

by Robert Long

The Muse Lends a Hand

by Robert Long

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Poems: "The Muse and I Are Alone" and "The Muse Lends a Hand," by Robert Long

The Muse and I Are Alone

On the usual corner, we're
Up and out earlier than usual.
No winos around: too cold. The Muse
Wears white pants and the usual heavy metal
Jacket. He's pouty, half-asleep,
Turns toward me, his back
To the screaming crosstown wind.
I'm leaning against a video store
Steel grate. Hollywood light bulbs
Race around the window perimeter.
If you looked from across the avenue
You'd see us: a guy with a briefcase
Full of paper and a kid
With a backpack stuffed with books,
Framed by blinking lights,
Like forgotten celebrities.

The Muse Lends a Hand

The wind picks up; my hat blows off my head.
I'm trying to light a cigarette.
The hat hits the Muse in the knees, drops
To the sidewalk. Facing me,
He wears a baseball cap backwards, and looks stern
This morning. He bends, picks up the hat,
Hands it to me. "Thank you," I say.
He says nothing but watches
As I replace the hat on my head.
He turns, searches the avenue for evidence
Of our bus. I feel undignified.
The Muse is always composed;
His role is to trigger creative impulses
In others. He adjusts his bookback,
Steps to the curb, stares
Into the relentless gray dream
Of 7:13 a.m. Philadelphia.
The Muse looks tired of living.
A woman in a dirty raincoat asks me
If the K bus has passed. "No," I say.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's Australia Day today, the 26th of January.

It's the birthday of children's book author Mary Mapes Dodge, born Mary Elizabeth Mapes in New York City (1831). In 1851, she married the lawyer William Dodge, who had lent her father money to experiment with chemical fertilizers. The marriage lasted seven years, until William left one day and never returned. He had drowned, possibly by suicide, having suffered financial difficulties brought about by his loans to his father-in-law. In her grief, Dodge moved with her sons to her father's estate, and she set up a study for herself in the attic of an old building nearby. In 1865 she published a novel called Hans Brinker; or, The Silver Skates, and it became a best-seller. The book takes place in Holland, though she'd never been to the country.

It's the birthday of playwright Christopher Hampton born on Fayal Island in the Azores (1946). Hampton wrote many plays and screenplays, including a screen adaptation of the French novel Dangerous Liaisons, about two people who can't admit they love each other, and therefore spend their energies trying to destroy the loves of others, which won an Academy Award in 1988. He said, "No human being who devotes his life and energy to the manufacture of fantasies can be anything but fundamentally inadequate."

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